While mobile phones are great for keeping in contact with family or your business whilst on holiday, nothing is less relaxing that returning home to a huge bill because you haven’t taken sensible precautions before you go…..
Using your phone overseas, known as roaming, can cost a lot more than it does at home, particularly if you upload multiple pictures to social networking sites, send and receive lots of emails or use the internet a lot.
You can even run up a big bill without actively using your phone, as many smartphones and 3G/4G enabled tablets automatically seek out mobile connections and use them to update apps without you having to do anything.
While turning off data roaming before you leave your home country will stop your devices constantly downloading data at whatever your standard out-of-package rate is, there are many other things you can do to minimise your chances of running up a large mobile bill.
Before you go:
Think about how you want to use your phone abroad. Your monthly allowance probably won’t cover you for usage abroad so making and receiving calls, sending texts and using the internet or other data abroad could end up costing you more.
Check if your provider offers products where you can use your domestic allowance abroad. If not, particularly if travelling outside Europe where prices are often considerably higher, see if they offer packages so you can use your phone overseas at discounted rates, including data roaming bundles.
Whatever you decide, make sure you know what happens when your data bundle is used up. Will you be unable to use data until you purchase another bundle, or will it be charged at a standard rate – most likely much higher than the cost per MB within the bundle?
Turn off data roaming on your handset to stop your smartphone automatically seeking out an internet connection when you reach your destination, which could mean you start using substantial amounts of data without realising it.
If you regularly browse the web on your phone, using local Wi-Fi hotspots in places such as cafes, hotels and restaurants instead of your phone’s mobile internet connection will work out much cheaper than your standard charges and may sometimes even be free.
Some phone apps can seek out Wi-Fi networks and prompt you to connect to them so that you don’t have to do this manually, which is particularly useful for downloading maps, checking emails or browsing social networks. You don’t need data roaming switched on to use Wi-Fi connections, but you do need to stay in range.
If you decide to use your phone’s own internet connection instead, be aware that watching videos, downloading music, opening large email attachments and updating social media with photographs will all use a lot of data.
How much will it cost to use my phone abroad….?
Calls and texts:
The cost of using your phone within the European Union is capped under EU law, which sets out euro-tariffs.
You should automatically benefit from the euro-tariffs, unless you have chosen to opt out (for example by taking out a roaming bundle offered by your provider).
- Calls made should cost no more than €0.19 (around 15p) per minute (excluding VAT)
- Calls received should be charged at no more than €0.05 (around 4p) per minute (excluding VAT). –
- Sending a text should cost no more than €0.06 (around 5p) per text (excluding VAT).
You cannot be charged for receiving texts or voicemail (although you will be charged for calls made to listen to messages).
There is also a price cap on data roaming charges in the European Union. This cap means that phone companies can charge no more than €0.20 (around 16p) per MB of data, (excluding VAT).
Around the world…..
Calls and Texts:
Costs tend to be much higher outside Europe so think about how you plan to use your phone in advance.
Talk to your provider about any packages it offers for the place you’re travelling to. There are a few specialist products offering discounts or it might be worth considering buying a SIM for the country you are visiting.
Some providers charge you when someone leaves a message on your voicemail (as well as charging for listening to the message).
Check with your provider- if they do charge, consider asking them how to switch off your voicemail before you leave the UK and ask your friends and family to text instead.
The cost of data roaming can be significantly higher outside Europe, so check prices with your provider before you leave.
Talk to your provider about any packages it offers for the place you’re visiting as many offer data roaming bundles. Alternatively, it might be worth considering buying a SIM for the country you are visiting.
What if I am on a ferry or cruise?
Mobile phones used in coastal areas or at sea may not be able to connect to traditional 2, 3 or 4G networks and may instead seek out a satellite connection. The euro-tariffs and world-wide data limits mentioned above do not apply to these and charges can be high.
Try to use services on land wherever possible. If you think you will need to use your phone at sea, check with your provider before you travel to see how much it will cost to use your phone via a satellite connection. You could manually select a preferred network while you are on board to avoid satellite connections but signals can vary and this will mean you wouldn’t receive calls or texts when out of range of the selected network.
Finally, make sure both your handset and SIM are passcode-protected to make them more difficult for thieves to use.